• George

Wedding Speeches: Some Notes on Notes

We’ve written hundreds of speeches for weddings, formal occasions and business events. It never ceases to amaze how speakers allow worries about their notes to undermine a perfectly good speech text.

You’ve written your best man’s speech, your wedding toast or your big corporate speech. You’ve read it out in front of the mirror dozens of times. It’s all going so well and then you start worrying about whether you should use index cards.

The obsession with index cards is a mystery to us.

Speakers wrongly think that a speaker looking down at index cards seems more authentic than someone looking down at a few sheets of A4. We’ll let you in on a secret: the audience can still see index cards. You aren’t fooling anyone by changing the size of the paper you are reading from.

If you have a text you are confident reading, there is nothing to be gained from taking that speech and trying to condense it into a few bullet points on cards. By summarising the text you risk losing the carefully chosen language and rhythm you settled on. What was the point in all those different drafts if you are simply going to reinterpret it all over again based on a few vague headings on a card?

Another problem with index cards is that people too often end up writing the whole speech on them. The result is that, rather than having half a dozen sheets of A4, you stand up with 40 index cards. This creates all sorts of problems but the most common is that the speaker overtakes where they are in the cards and then, when they next look down for guidance they are looking at something they said 5 minutes ago and spend an awkward 30 seconds searching for the right index card. The bigger the sheet of paper, the fewer times you have to turn the page and the less chance there is of you getting lost mid-way through your speech.

Our strong advice is always to stick with the full text you are comfortable with. Shifting to index cards at the last minute can undermine your confidence just when you’ve polished your performance. The format you use when you practice your speech should be the same as when you deliver it. If it is working why change it?

Some people worry that having sheets of A4 will be fiddly and that they are likely to drop them. Or they worry that it will be difficult to turn the pages while holding a microphone. Both of these problems are just as true for index cards.

Remember: almost everything about how you deliver your speech is in your control. If you are worried about holding your microphone and your speech then ask for a microphone stand to be placed on the table or for a small table-top lectern to place your notes on. If you worry about dropping your pages and losing your place then use a staple and number your pages!

Whatever you decide to do with your notes, make sure you know exactly how you’ll be presenting your speech before the big day so you can plan and ask for any adaptations in advance.

For help with writing a speech or performance coaching, use our professional speechwriting service.